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X-Men Origins: Wolverine
A rare hit for 20th Century Fox.
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Hugh Jackman Stars in the Spin-Off "Wolverine".
OPENING WEEKEND: $80,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $230,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

February 9th, 2009: Leading up to the events of "X-Men," "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" tells the story of Wolverine's epically violent and romantic past, his complex relationship with Victor Creed, and the ominous Weapon X program. Along the way, Wolverine encounters many mutants, both familiar and new, including surprise appearances by several legends of the X-Men universe.

What to Expect: This is a film with a lot riding on it. Not only is it being treated as a harbinger of feasibility for additional films in the X-Men franchise, but Fox desperately needs a hit. Like a junkie needs a hit, yo. The once-mighty 20th Century Fox was the only major studio not to have a film break $100 million in the 2008 summer season, which is pretty sad. It came in a dismal and distant sixth in year-end earnings (that's out of six major studios). In addition, it released many much-ridiculed bombs, such as "The Happening" and "Meet Dave." The studio was heavily counting on "Australia" to bail them out (whoops), although it did receive a too-little-too-late reprieve with the success of "Marley & Me."

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Why all the emo, Fox? They have only themselves to blame. They've had chance after chance with potential-ridden properties and up-and-coming directors and they keep screwing it up. Alex Proyas vowed never to work with them again after "I, Robot" and "Babylon, AD" director Mathieu Kossovitz spoke publicly about his problems with Fox. Plus they earned themselves bucketloads of bad karma with the geek fanboys and fangirls (whose support you really need for summer-tentpole releases, so many of which are superhero and comic based) when they sued Warner Bros over ownership to the distribution rights to "Watchmen," threatening to derail the release of one of the most anticipated comic-book films ever.

Now the rumors that they did their damnedest to ruin "Wolverine" as well are thick on the ground. Reportedly, the studio's relationship with director Gavin Hood ("Tsotsi" and "Rendition") was so contentious that he was nearly replaced (although much of this chatter may be exaggerated...I know, try to conceal your shock at such a concept). It was the classic studio/director struggle over creative control. Hood wanted a darker, grittier film...more "Batman Begins" then "Superman Returns"...while Fox wanted a more kid-friendly, primary-colored film. There were wild tales of Fox CEO Tom Rothman sneaking into the set and having it repainted to be less grim while Hood was away, although the veracity of these tales is undercut by the fact that they supposedly happened after filming is known to have wrapped. Sightings of "Superman" director Richard Donner on the set led to more gossip that he'd been brought in to smooth things over, although the fact that his wife, Lauren Shuler Donner, is one of the film's producers could have accounted for his presence. He's also a personal friend of Hood's.

It seems as if Hood came out victorious, or at least salvaged most of his directorial vision, because the trailers and publicity footage certainly reveal the kind of gritty, hard-edged film he wanted to make. The fact that star Hugh Jackman is also a producer on the film probably helped. "Uncle Hugh" (as the Wolverine fans sometimes call him) is hugely attached to the character and committed to maintaining its integrity. He likely had a lot to do with how this film would shape up, although there are even more rumors that Jackman and Hood butted heads during the shoot. I hardly know which rumors to believe, if any, but the overall picture that emerges is that of a shoot fraught with turmoil. That's not usually a good sign.

Still, the reports of "Wolverine's" awesomeness continue to fly about. Jeff Katz, a former Fox executive and comic-book writer in his own right, came away from the set with a report of total bad-assery and said that the movie delivers what fans want, and what the character demands. Let's hope so, because this is just Step 1 in Fox's plans to reinvigorate its comic-book franchises and save itself from the Great Movie Backlot in the sky. There are even rumors that Fox plans to reboot the Daredevil title, recasting Jason Statham in the role (who is all over that), and hoping that nobody remembers that much-reviled Ben Affleck outing that came out a few years back. While there are no plans at the moment for any further X-Men films per se, there are a ton of plans for spinoff series. If "Wolverine" is a success, "Dark Knight" writer David Goyer is ready to go to direct a similar origin film with the character Magneto. More head-scratching are the plans for an X-Men film featuring the younger generation of mutants, written by Josh Schwartz, the man behind such TV teenfests as "The O.C." and "Gossip Girl." If the idea of teen drama crossed with X-Men makes your head twirl a bit, you aren't alone.

But all of this is contingent upon the success of "Wolverine." Jackman has even said that even though he loves the character and would happily play him in ten films, if "Wolverine" fails, he will take it as a sign that the fans have had enough of the character and put the kibosh on any further installments in the series. Even so, there are plans for another Wolverine film being discussed. Jackman is very keen to explore the Japan-based exploits of the character, a much-explored part of Logan's past history, and if this film is a hit (the odds seem good), we'll surely be seeing it.

This film, however, explores Wolverine's more basic origins; i.e. how he got that supercool adamantium-coated skeleton. In the comic canon (well, with the caveat that X-Men comic canon is holier than Swiss cheese with overlapping storylines enough to confuse even the hardiest fanboy) Logan's natural mutations are his superfast healing abilities and his claws, which are extensions of his skeleton (they're bone underneath the adamantium). His fast healing abilities made it possible for a secret shadowy project called Weapon X to implant him with the indestructible adamantium (someone without his ability to heal would have been killed by the procedure). The film explores his history with Team X both before and after the adamantium procedure that turned him into the human weapon we first met in "X-Men." Wolverine is probably the most popular character in the X-Men universe, and his centrality to the three X-Men films all but begged for a solo film outing. This film takes place roughly twenty years before the first X-Men film (Logan's mutant healing powers mean he doesn't age like others do) and centers on his difficult relationship with his half-brother Victor Creed, also known as Sabretooth (played here by Liev Schreiber, although the character did appear in the first X-Men film played by another actor). It also portrays Wolverine's first meeting with Colonel William Stryker, who was played by Brian Cox in "X-Men United" and is played here by Danny Huston. Schreiber was originally approached for this part, but asked if he might play Sabretooth. He'd read the comics and was drawn to the character's brutality, which he's described as a novel experience for him.

Much of the excitement over this film also stems from the inclusion of two other immensely popular X-Men characters who had not yet appeared in the films: Gambit and Deadpool. Gambit was rumored to appear in both the second and third X-Men films but it never happened. Now, in the comic canon, Gambit and Wolverine have little to no history in common, at least none having to do with Weapon X, so who knows how he's working his way into this story, but with the degree of original storytelling that's always been in the X-Men films, anything goes. Of course the casting was a huge point of suspense, and the decision to cast newcomer Taylor Kitsch (one of the stars of "Friday Night Lights," one of the best TV shows in the history of ever) has been met with mostly positive response. Kitsch has a swagger and a cocky attitude that suits Gambit, even if they're not giving him the black eyes with red pupils.

The other character generating buzz here is Deadpool, a character who does share history with the Weapon X program. Played here by Ryan Reynolds, the response to the character here has been so strong that it's looking very likely that Fox will pursue spin-off films featuring him (a spin-off of a spin-off, you heard it here first). In January, "Wolverine" went into pretty substantial reshoots, to the tune of ten days and all the major characters plus the director. This caused ripples of panic across geekdom to the point that Hugh Jackman wrote the fandom a personal note via Ain't It Cool News reassuring them of the film's integrity and that it would be what they were hoping for. He cited scheduling conflicts and the need to get certain seasonal weather conditions as reasons for the reshoot, but I have it on pretty good authority that the major reason was to beef up Deadpool's presence in the film because the studio wants to push Reynolds as the star of possible Deadpool films. Some fans were distressed by the sight of Reynolds' face in trailers (Deadpool is a masked character, having been seriously scarred in his past), but it seems that the events which scar him will be portrayed in the film, and by the end, CGI will be used to depict his disfigurement. I like Ryan Reynolds, he was the best thing about "Blade: Trinity," so I'm kind of psyched about this.

Naturally we'll be looking for cameos from other X-Men characters. There's talk of seeing some of the familiar mutants (such as Cyclops and Storm) as children. I'm not sure how I feel about that. Sounds gimmicky. I'm also concerned about Fox putting so much on this film and trying to cram so much into it that they'll forget that it has to stand on its own as a movie, and not just exist as a launching platform for a whole slew of sequels and spinoffs. The sequels and spinoffs won't happen if this film doesn't deliver.

Director Gavin Hood might seem like an odd choice, as he has no experience with this kind of film. Producer Lauren Shuler Donner commented that she loves bringing indie directors into blockbusters, because it grounds the film and gives it an emotional core. Directors don't have to know about effects and action, they have specialists for that. They do have to know about storytelling and character development, and she's right in that indie directors often have a better base from which to build strong storytelling into action films. The writer, David Benioff, won acclaim for his novel "The 25th Hour" (which he later adapted into the screenplay for the film by Spike Lee and starring Edward Norton), after which he turned to screenwriting, penning "Troy" and "The Kite Runner."

The anticipation for this film is so high that it'll be hard for it to live up to expectations. If it does, however, it'll be huge. It'll be pretty huge even if it's disappointing, but if it's good, we're looking at "Iron Man" levels of success.

In Conclusion: With practically the entire future of the studio riding on it and myriad sequels and spinoffs waiting with bated breath to gauge its viability, "Wolverine" has more pressure on it to succeed than almost any other film in recent memory. Most women I know would pay to watch Hugh Jackman read the phone book (and add in Ryan Reynolds and Taylor Kitsch and it's a no-brainer) and most men I know are psyched about those cool claws, so people are primed and ready to see this movie. They'll have to be convinced not to see it, and that could happen, but if the film is even passably good, it'll be a big hit.

Similar Titles: X-Men, X2: X-Men United
May 1st, 2009 (wide)
September 15th, 2009 (DVD)

20th Century Fox

Gavin Hood

Hugh Jackman, Liev Schreiber, Christian Clark, Ryan Reynolds, will.i.am, Taylor Kitsch, Danny Huston, Lynn Collins, Daniel Henney, Troye Mellet, Kevin Durand

Total: 357 vote(s).

Action & Adventure, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Click here to view site

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some partial nudity.

107 min




X-Men Origins: Wolverine at Trailer Addict

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